Category Archives: Guest Posts

Living Better: Living Better With Less

Cindy spends her days with her doggy and her Mr. Sunshine in the deep south, is co-founder of Spoons 4 Spoonies, and one of my dearest friends. She’s here sharing what it’s like to live a minimalist lifestyle, and how she’s living better with less stuff.

When Cindy isn’t out making the world a better place, she can be found on the tweeter machine sharing her views on life.

LivingBetterWithLess

I remember, back in the 90’s, wondering where in the hell all these people were coming up with the money required to buy all the shit they bought. Looking back, I realize they weren’t–we were in the early stages of a credit-fueled spending spree that involved credit cards, home-equity loans, home improvement loans, second mortgages, personal loans, credit default swaps and other barely understandable made-up things that fed the consumerist frenzy that probably had its roots in the excesses of the 80’s.

Here I sit, post Great Recession, and I wonder why people are still buying all this stuff. Where are they putting it? What are they doing with it? We live in the great consumerist era, constantly bombarded with all kinds of messaging that tells us our clothes aren’t cool enough and we don’t have enough of them, our kitchens aren’t big/modern/gourmet enough, our hair isn’t shiny enough, our cars aren’t cool/new/big/fast enough, our dogs need shoes/coats/sweaters/toys/scarves/doggles/birthday parties, our electronic devices are built with planned obsolescence in mine so that in six months we will have to go get the newer/bigger/better/faster/more model, and if we don’t buy all this shit, we are somehow not enough.

I say enough, already. Stop the madness.

Dave Ramsey sums it up rather well.

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

Once we buy it, we spend an insane amount of time and money organizing and cleaning and storing all this stuff. We don’t own this stuff, it owns us. We become defined by our stuff. It declares our status in society. It dictates how we spend our time. It goes further than that, though. The stuff we’re buying today isn’t even made as well as the stuff we were buying in the 90’s. We’re buying more poorly made plastic/polyester/disposable crap. This crap doesn’t last–the clothes fall apart after one or two washings, the phones are not cool after six months, the furniture breaks if the dog looks at it funny, the couches look worn in less than a year, and the shoes fall to pieces after being worn only a few times. Even buying designer is no guarantee of quality–I’ve seen four figure designer dresses made out of polyester shiny grossness that looked like something a cheap hooker might wear. I’ve personally had to resole $800 boots after only six months of occasional wear.

When I look back over my 44 years of life thus far, my happiest memories don’t involve stuff.

My happiest memories involve experiences and people. Riding the tractor with my dad. Playing trivia games with my mom, brother, and sister as a kid. Watching “The Mikado”, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and “The Color Purple” from the stage left wings at The Strand Theatre. Standing on the beach on Christmas Day with my Mr. Sunshine, watching my little doggy bark fiercely at the waves as they rolled into shore.

Cindy

My deepest moments of serenity have come when everything else was stripped away and I was left with nothing standing between me and my creator. Finally admitting I was an addict, and surrendering to the twelve steps. Huddling on the floor as a tornado destroyed the world around me. Standing in the middle of a seemingly endless field of grass, listening to the wind as it whispered in my ear.

Over the last four years or so, Mr. Sunshine and I have downsized. We moved from a bright airy house filled with furniture, clothes, shoes, and tchotchkies into an RV that has just enough room for very basic necessities. I’ve become quite the minimalist–almost to the point of brutalism.

I wish Sunshine were as minimalist as I am. In his defense, the stuffs he stockpiles is all very practical and useful; it just takes up space that I would much rather see filled with the light of my creator’s love.

Since we moved into this tiny house on wheels, I have given away, consigned, and trashed more clothes and shoes than I care to think about. It’s embarrassing, it’s shameful, it’s rather obscene. I have given away knicknacks, tchotchkies, thingamabobs, doohickies, and things. I miss none of them. Sunshine has given away tchotchkies, sold furniture, and thrown away things we can’t even figure out why he owned them. He misses none of them.

Now, none of this is to say that we don’t buy new things. It’s just that, today, when we bring something new into the house, something old must leave. There just isn’t room for new things, so we think very hard about how much we need or want a thing, how will it add value or enrich our lives, and what we are willing to give up to get it. We no longer mindlessly shop. We no longer feel compelled to buy shit we don’t want with money we’d rather spend on experiences to impress people we can’t fucking stand anyway.

These days, cleaning the house doesn’t take long at all. It’s less than 250 square feet. When I open my closet door, I’m not staring at an overstuffed hellhole crying about how I have nothing to wear. I’m not spending hours organizing, storing, and cleaning my stuff. These days, I get to spend my time walking around the lake with my little doggy, hanging out with those few people I CAN stand, and traveling to pretty places that remind me of the beauty my creator has given to us to enjoy.

The other upsides to having so much less stuff? I have BETTER stuff. I have stuff that I use again and again and again. The clothes I have are all clothes that I love, that make me feel fabulous, that serve my life as it is now (and not the life I thought I wished I had). I am not drowning in debt. I have more time to take care of myself, and less need of self-care because I am not overwhelmed with all the things I am supposed to do and all the things I am supposed to own.

CindyKhakis
source

I am not my fucking kakhis.

Living Better: Parenting Through Pain

My gal Echo has graciously agreed to open up about parenting through pain with me and you all. She usually spends her days trying to hold on to what’s left of her sanity while raising and homeschooling two kiddos.

She can be found writing about her life on her blog The Domain of the Mad Mommy

 

When you are a parent, there are daily struggles.
When you are a parent, there are daily triumphs.
When you are a parent in pain, there is daily chaos.

Parenting is a hard enough job on it’s own. So much to do, so much to learn, so many sacrifices to make, so many benefits to reap. Add some pain into the mix and it can throw everything into turmoil!

Pain comes in different forms. There is physical pain, like the pain that I am experiencing with my mouth and multiple dental surgeries.

There is also mental and emotional pain. The pain that can’t always be seen, but is always there.

The emotional and mental pain, I believe, is more easily managed. Counseling, coping skills, natural remedies, medication, therapy. It takes a while to get into the “groove” of things, but it can happen.

Some of the coping skills I use to parent through my depression are:

*Blogging – Yes, blogging. I come online, I type shit out and I piss and moan to all of the people on the Internet that will read it. Does it help? It helps me. It helps me vent. It helps me process. It helps me laugh.
*Humor – They say that laughter is the best medicine and I happen to agree. I love taking the daily chaos and turmoil in my life and turning it into something that can make myself and someone else laugh!
*Drugs – Caffeine is my number one drug of choice! I need it, I love it, I wouldn’t be able to parent without it. I was on Prozac and Ambien for depression and insomnia, but I have weaned myself off of those and seem to be doing pretty good!
*Cooking/Eating – I love to go shopping, buy fancy ingredients, cook a fancy ass meal and then rub it in my extended family’s face! Like ha, see, see what I can do. Fuck you.

I also yell, swear, take a hot shower, take naps (when I can), eat ice cream, eat Taco Bell and cry. Yes, I cry. Sometimes, you just have to cry!

Physical pain is harder to navigate. When you are in physical pain, everything is amplified x100. Your kid’s whining sounds like a thousand babies crying. The chocolate that just stained your carpet, didn’t “just” stain the carpet, it stained your very soul! You feel like you haven’t slept in days and no one, no one is going to help you!

I’m a parent…
It’s never just one LEGO!
It’s like this:

It’s like this all the time!
It fucking hurts!

Here are some of the ways that I parent through physical pain:

*Let it go – Seriously, I tend to let a lot more slide because I am in pain. I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to get all worked up about the ALL of the toys being in the living-room.
*Sleep – I try to sleep when I can, where I can. Anytime, anywhere. If my kids are quiet and safe, I will sleep. Why? My body needs it to heal and I am less likely to bite someone’s head off when I am sleeping.

*Remedy – I try to remedy the pain in anyway possible! Seriously, I just want to stop hurting and when the doctors stop providing you with pain relief, you take things into your own hands!

It’s really about doing what you have to do for your kids and yourself. You have to parent through the pain because you have to be there for your kids. I know it sucks. Believe me. I deal with this shit everyday and although it sucks, royally, it is manageable. Give it time, make a plan and make sure that you have a strong support system. I’m not sure how I would cope if I didn’t have my husband supporting me and the support of the FABULOUS bloggers (my friends) that I have met online.

Don’t be afraid to reach out. Find a group. Online, offline, it doesn’t matter. Find someone you can talk to and not feel judged.

Write it down. Start a blog, write a journal. It really helps to get it out. To vent it. You don’t want to keep it bottled up.

Don’t be afraid to get help. Help for the emotional/mental pain and help for the physical pain. You do not need to deal with it alone!

The Art of Planned Spontaneity

When you’re sick, or hurting, and your life feels like it’s no longer in your control, you find yourself planning out every moment of every day. You do this to ensure you save what little energy you have for the highest priority things. In the process, you lose the ability to be spontaneous. You just never know how you’ll feel in a day, an hour, or a minute.

That blows. There’s no two ways about it.

When I was at my lowest point, when I was barely taking care of myself let alone getting to work or being socially active, I fell into a deep depression about my lack of spontaneity. My life was boring and too planned out for me to enjoy. After hiding away in my home feeling sorry for myself, I came up with a plan to get back in action. I started what I like to call Planned Spontaneity. Ironic, I know.

I created a list of things I would like to do on a whim if I had the time or the energy for it. The list ranged from simple things around the house, to activities with friends, and even big ticket items like road trips and vacations. I arranged the list from low energy to high, so that it was easy to dive into. I kept that list close by, and when the time came that I felt the slightest burst of extra energy I dove into the list looking for the right “spontaneous” activity to do.

I discovered that the hardest part of being spontaneous while being sick was the thinking. I wasted so much time and effort coming up with activity ideas, and found I would easily give up. The concept of the list wasn’t perfect, because it was still somewhat planned, but it did give me ideas. It cut out the over-thinking, and helped me decide what wonderful random thing to enjoy right here and right now.

When you feel broken all the time, you feel like you can’t do anything a lot of the time. Taking away some of the guess work, and reducing the stressed out over-thinking, can give you a sense of (the smallest bit of) freedom. And we’ll take all the personal freedom we can get.

 

**Dawnie blathers on over at The Dawnie Project, and can be found muttering on twitter from time to time.

The Giving Tree

TheGivingTree

If all you wanted was love
Why would you use me up,
Cut me down, build a boat, and sail away.
When all I wanted to be was your giving tree,
Settle down, build a home, and make you happy.

The world is full of give and take.

We do so much for others, and especially for those we care about. We give of ourselves at work, and at home. We send out into the world a part of ourselves throughout each and every day, whether we intend to or not. And after we’ve given everything we have in us, sometimes we forget to care for ourselves.

Self care isn’t just for the sick and hurting. Everyone could benefit from some quality time taking care of the most important person in the world: ourselves. After all, if we aren’t at our best, how can we give our best?

Every day take one moment for yourself. Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, take a moment to breathe in deep and then let it all out. One long deep breath just for you.

Learn to say no. Sometimes it’s hard, especially when we really want to be saying yes. But it’s important to know our own limits, and to stop before we hit them. Remember that you don’t have to give all that you’ve got just because it’s asked of you.

Be your own biggest advocate. Stand up for yourself, and speak out when you’re being pushed too hard. Not everyone will understand, especially when each of our limits will vary, but being the voice for your own well being is empowering.

Never underestimate the power of a spa day. Whether you visit a local spa, or create a spa at home, schedule some time for self pampering. It’s amazing how transformed we can be after a good foot soak, face mask, manicure, or massage.

Just remember, give all you want, but keep a little for yourself. You’re worth it.

Dawnie blathers on over at The Dawnie Project, and can be found muttering on twitter from time to time.

Lyrics courtesy of the Plain White T’s, The Giving Tree.

A Healing Journey, According to Teala

Today I’m featuring a guest post from my WonderTwin, Ms. Teala!

 

Healing journey.

You can easily find a decent, generic definition for these words separately:

“Healing,” as an adjective, means “That heals or cures; curative; salutary.” “Journey,” a noun, means “A ‘spell’ or continued course of going or travelling, having its beginning and end in place or time, and thus viewed as a distinct whole; a march, ride, drive, or combination of these or other modes of progression to a certain more or less distant place, or extending over a certain distance or space of time…” (according to the Oxford English Dictionary)

However, the task of finding a good one for the idea created by the phrase healing journey is much more difficult. Why? I think, because everyone’s journey to healing is as different as the individual.

Me? I look at life in general as a healing journey.

Maybe it’s just my eternal optimism, but I don’t believe life is all about death, destruction, pain, and suffering. I believe life is more about healing ourselves and others through love and compassion. Our journey is never carried on alone. In the journey through life, love and compassion are two of the things that can and do bring us together in peace, and they can create inner peace and healing.

I know it’s not always easy to show love and compassion in some circumstances or to some people; however, keeping those at the front of my mind never fails to keep me calmer and more clear-headed in situations where I would ordinarily become frustrated, anxious, or angry.

My healing journey truly started when I began showing unconditional love and compassion for myself. It takes some work, even now. Loving and accepting myself has involved making time for self-care; making healthy decisions no matter how hard they might seem; and finding balance in my life. I’ve made sure to take love and compassion outside of myself: practicing love and compassion for others, including loved ones and strangers, can certainly be a test of my patience, but it’s also strengthened it.

I’ve also found that through my healing journey I’ve not been alone. Others have helped along the way. TiaMaria, whether she knows it or not (she knows now!), has helped me heal in so many ways. She’s the slightly older, wiser twin sister I didn’t have before. In the time I’ve known her, she has shown me more unconditional love than many I have known most of my life.

Life and healing is a journey, not a destination, and we never go through it alone.

 

**Teala blogs at Melt Into The Text and can be found lighting up my Twitter timeline as @TiLaMiLa